Saturday, April 22, 2017


I dug into my enormous stash of Anna Griffin supplies and made a bunch of cards last night for some of my spring and summertime birthday and holiday needs.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Statistics, odds and ends.

So in a couple of weeks my ten years of reading will be over and I'll start a new year. In ten years' time, I have read 1,358 books (and will hopefully add at least one more to the total before December 31.)

The year in which I read the most books was 2008: 168 books. This was the year after I joined Paperback Swap, and I was reading and trading maniacally. (I was a member for six or seven years, and then I came to a point where the books I wanted to read were not the ones being traded any more. But I found some fantastic books through that site.)

The year in which I read the least books was this year, 2016. Right now my total stands at 69. One reason for this enormous drop-off (I have always easily broken 100 books every other year) was too much time spent following politics online, and another reason was an unrealized need for progressive lenses. I started reading more once I could see better!

I don't set reading goals. I like to let my desires and interests take me where they will. But I really do hope to do better than 69 books next year. I suspect reading will be a good escape in the midst of whatever 2017 holds.

I've listed my good reads, now what about my bad reads? I don't have a lot of one-star books on my list, because if a book is that bad, I usually just don't finish it. I have no qualms about dropping a book--or drop-kicking it! Several one- and two-star books loom large, though:

The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery
Empire, Orson Scott Card
The Ladies of Missalonghi, Colleen McCullough
Little Bee, Chris Cleave
The Crimes of Charlotte Bronte, James Tully
A Handful of Dust, Evelyn Waugh
The Astronaut Wives' Club, Lily Koppel
Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, Katherine Howe
The Storied Life of A.J Fikry, Gabrielle Zevin

These all went past merely bad into the realm of actively pissing me off, for being poorly plotted, under-researched, and/or just plain obnoxious. Fortunately, these books are fairly rare.

I'm excited to see what great reads await me in the next ten years!

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Seven and Eight.

Here's my little snowman tart warmer I picked up at JoAnn's on Black Friday. I've always been a candle girl, and am new to the tart warmer, but I think I'm hooked.

And I took a close-up of our little tabletop tree. I got red tartan plaid bows at JoAnn's in the same Black Friday sale, so I decided to do the tree in red and gold. This required picking up some gold ornaments, gold snowflakes, red berry clusters and what not. The tree has red and white lights. And a big dark red bow on top. I don't love it like I did last year's, but it's quite pretty.

Also-rans, non-fiction.

Four-star non-fiction reads are still pretty awesome. Here are some of the ones I still remember and think about.

Catch a Wave: The Rise, Fall and Redemption of Brian Wilson, Peter Ames Carlin
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio, Terry Ryan
The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls
The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic, Steven Johnson
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, Bill Bryson
An Autobiography, Agatha Christie
Picasso's War: The Destruction of Guernica and the Masterpiece that Changed the World, Russell Martin
Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll's Legendary Neighborhood, Michael Walker
The Year 1000: What Life Was Like at the End of the First Millennium, Robert Lacey
Never Have Your Dog Stuffed, and Other Things I've Learned, Alan Alda
Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams, Gary Giddons
The Perfect Summer: Dancing Into Shadow in 1911, Juliet Nicolson
Travel As a Political Act, Rick Steves
The Lincolns in the White House: Four Years That Shattered a Family, Jerrold M. Packard
King, Kaiser, Tsar: Three Royal Cousins Who Led the World to War, Catrine Clay
Richmond Burning: The Last Days of the Confederate Capital, Nelson D. Lankford
Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife, Francine Prose
The Day We Found the Universe, Marcia Bartusiak
About Town: The New Yorker and the World It Made, Ben Yagoda
Bossypants, Tina Fey
Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter, Randy L. Schmidt
Philip and Elizabeth: Portrait of a Royal Marriage, Gyles Brandreth
Van Gogh: The Life, Steven Naifeh
Vita and Harold: The Letters of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, 1910-1962, Nigel Nicolson
A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception and Survival at Jonestown, Julia Scheeres
The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend, Glenn Frankel
The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece, Anne-Marie O'Connor
The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of "Hallelujah," Alan Light
A Sting in the Tale: My Adventures with Bumblebees, Dave Goulson
Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital, Sheri Fink
One Summer: America, 1927, Bill Bryson
The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things, Paula Byrne
Digging for Richard III: The Search for the Lost King, Mike Pitts
Jane's Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World, Claire Harman
The Stranger Beside Me, Ann Rule
Lady Bird and Lyndon: The Hidden Story of a Marriage That Made a President, Betty Caroli

Five and six.

I'm getting behind in my journal because I'm having some snafus with my photo developing place. (Wal-Mart, of which I shall never darken the door again.) Here's the Christmas card we are sending to family and friends this year. (I had to chop it up to fit it on the page.)

And here's yesterday's entry, just a couple lines on the horrible weather and the coziness of having a tidy, dry, warm home. I put some tiny doilies on it to connote coziness!

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Also-rans, fiction.

Looking back over my ten years of reading lists, there are many, many 4-star books. That's probably the largest category. And if I were to go back and re-read some of them, some would probably become 5-star books. And vice-versa.

These are some of the fiction books I rated with 4 stars. I've picked the ones that really stand out in my mind as special and memorable, even years later.

The Red Tent, Anita Diamant
Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey
Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
Water For Elephants, Sara Gruen
The Art of Detection, Laurie R. King
Gilead, Marilynne Robinson
Those Who Save Us, Jenna Blum
The Portable Dorothy Parker, Dorothy Parker
We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson
Under the Dome, Stephen King
Ahab's Wife, Sena Jeter Naslund
The Help, Kathryn Stockett
People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks
Dissolution, C.J. Sansom
Dark Fire, C.J. Sansom
Sovereign, C.J. Sansom
Revelation, C.J.Sansom
Homeland, Barbara Hambly
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, Seth Grahame-Smith
The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson
Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
11/22/63, Stephen King
The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh
The House Next Door, Anne Rivers Siddons
Stettin Station, David Downing
The Rose Garden, Susanna Kearsley
Needful Things, Stephen King
How It All Began, Penelope Lively
The Blue Castle, L.M. Montgomery
Atonement, Iam McEwan
Little Dorrit, Charles DIckens
Harvest Home, Thomas Tryon
Brat Farrar, Josephine Tey
The Ivy Tree, Mary Stewart
The Dog Stars, Peter Heller
The End-of-the-World Running Club, Adrian J. Walker
Lincoln, Gore Vidal
The Anchoress, Robin Cadwallader

Items of note: 
The four books by C.J. Sansom are the first four in his Matthew Shardlake series, about a crippled lawyer in Tudor England. Sansom really captures the fear and dread of living in the time when Henry VIII was embarking on the destruction of the Catholic Church in England.

Brat Farrar and The Ivy Tree appear next to each other in the order I read them...Tey's story came first, and Mary Stewart wrote her own gender-swapped version a few years later. This is a tale of assumed identity and inheritance, lots of fun in both versions.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Five-star Non-fiction.

I read more non-fiction than fiction, and I generally enjoy it more, too. (There is SO MUCH bad fiction out there!) As my list shows, I like historical non-fiction and biographies/memoirs. Here are my five-star non-fiction reads from 2007-2016.

My Life in France, Julia Child
The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great
American Dust Bowl, Timothy Egan
The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life, Amy Tan
Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books, Maureen Corrigan
The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs. Beeton: The First Domestic Goddess, Kathryn Hughes
Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books, Aaron Lansky
Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War, Tony Hurwitz
Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His
Greatness, Joshua Wolf Shenk
Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare, Stephen Greenblatt
Used and Rare: Travels in the Book World, Lawrence Goldstone
The Children's Blizzard, David Laskin
One For the Road: An Outback Adventure, Tony Hurwitz
Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before, Tony Hurwitz
The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness, Karen Armstrong
Through the Narrow Gate: A Memoir of Spiritual Discovery, Karen Armstrong
Pagan Holiday: On the Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists, Tony Perrottet
The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million, Daniel Mendelsohn
Mornings on Horseback, David McCullough
The Inextinguishable Symphony: A True Story of Music and Love in Nazi Germany, Martin Goldsmith
Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire, Alex von Tunzelmann
The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: A Jewish Family's Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World, Lucette Lagnado
Charleston: A Bloomsbury House and Garden, Quentin Bell
Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father, John Matteson
Everybody Was So Young: A Lost Generation Love Story, Amanda Vaill
Reading Like a Writer, Francine Prose
109 East Palace: Robert Oppenheimer and the Secret City of Los Alamos, Jennet Conant
The Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century, Edward Dolnick
As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto, Joan Reardon
To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918, Adam Hochschild
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot
The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University, Kevin Roose
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption, Laura
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration, Isabel Wilkerson
The Island At the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America , Russell Shorto
Talking With My Mouth Full: Crab Cakes, Bundt Cakes, and Other Kitchen Stories, Bonny Wolf
Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind: A Bestseller's Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood, Ellen F. Brown
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective, Kate Summerscale
Martha Washington: First Lady of Liberty, Helen Bryan
Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation, Andrea Wulf
Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr and the International Hunt for His Assassin, Hampton Sides
You're Not Doing It Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death and Other Humiliations, Michael Ian Black
Nothing To Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, Barbara Demick
Twain's Feast: Searching for America's Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel
Clemens, Andrew Beahrs
Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley, Peter Guralnick
Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley, Peter Guralnick
Under a Wing: A Memoir, Reeve Lindbergh
My Father's Paradise: A Son's Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq, Ariel Sabar
Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II, Keith Lowe
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, Lawrence Wright
The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey, Candice Millard
Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President, Candice Millard
Johnny Cash: The Life, Robert Hilburn
The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra, Helen Rappaport
The Wright Brothers, David McCullough
Sinatra: The Chairman, James Kaplan
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, Erik Larson
Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World, Matthew Goodman
Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson, S.C. Gwynne
Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love and War, Annia Ciezadlo
Tea With Jane Austen, Kim Wilson
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Daniel James Brown
I Must Say: My Life As a Humble Comedy Legend, Martin Short
So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came To Be and Why It Endures, Maureen Corrigan
Paris Without End: The True Story of Hemingway's First Wife, Gioia Diliberto
How To Be a Tudor: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Tudor Life, Ruth Goodman
The Book of William: How Shakespeare's First Folio Conquered the World, Paul Collins
Jane Austen's Country Life, Deirdre Le Faye
The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride, Daniel James Brown
Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, Laura Ingalls Wilder
Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter, Kate Clifford Larson
Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, Ruth Franklin